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Six take-a-ways from Marketing in the Round

by Frank Strong

Integrated marketing has been the Holy Grail for marketing since I started working in the industry.  It was popular a decade ago, and even a decade before that.  For some reason, the concept ebbs and flows like the fashion of bell bottom jeans.

Why hasn’t the concept stuck?  It’s logical, practical, and more importantly effective.  The term “integrated marketing” may not be sexy but for me, it brings a sense of nostalgia, yet the overlap in marketing functions we’ve seen as companies increasingly adopt social media, causes me to believe that maybe this time…this time it’s real.

Marketing in the Round is about integrated marketing in a digital media age and it’s a straight forward, no-nonsense read, perhaps the result of two pragmatic marketers teaming to write the book. If you are new to marketing or PR, you should put this on your reading list; if you are a veteran, its chance to step back and re-think marketing strategy.  Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston launch the book earlier this year, and though it took me a while to sit down and focus on reading, I finally got it done on a plane ride to vacation – and wrote this on the plane ride back.

Here are my six take-a-ways:

1. Allocate budgets by campaign and not by discipline.

Budget is one way to funnel key players towards integrated marketing.  Often times in business, the leads from across the different marketing functions put forth a budget request and compete against each other for a slice of the same money pie.  This is inherently divisive.  In contrast, by focusing a budget on campaigns, it forces all functions to key their eye on the same goal and integration comes more naturally:  marketing messages are uniform, emails are timed with press releases, content marketing works to dominate key words that paid search is targeting.  It’s more effective.

2.  Use big breaks as stepping stones for more big breaks.

Athletic wear maker, UnderArmour , is a proof point for the “top-down influence” approach to marketing, one of four possible marketing strategies among direct, groundswell and flanking approaches.  The company started out by working on the groundswell approach, that is to say, primarily word of mouth marketing.  UnderArmour had a new approach to athletic clothing, quick drying, moisture wicking, and an incredibly warm and comfortable material – ample fodder for a groundswell.  It grew slowly and steadily, until Oakland Raiders quarterback Jeff George appeared on the cover of USA Today in the company’s threads. That placement paved the way for two separate university athletic deals and momentum shifted in the company’s favor.  The company earned a placement in a highly successful football movie, Any Given Sunday, which fueled enough sales for advertising in ESPN Magazine, which in turn triggered three-quarters of a million in sales.  The company which started in 1996 with $17,000 now earns nearly $1 billion in annual sales.

3.  Specialists need a facilitation to think and act broadly.

“Most media relations aces do not comprehend marketing.  Direct marketers do not understand crowdsourcing.  Advertisers rarely understand the long-term relationship work that business developers and fundraising pros participate in,” says the book on page 68.  I couldn’t agree more – and the larger a company grows, the worse the problem becomes as more and more specialists are added to the mix to fill marketing needs.  This is an important reminder that as marketers, we should continuously seek to broaden our skills. Marketers should learn about the long hard process of earning media; PR pros should spend time with the SEO specialists; direct marketers should tie their campaigns and news letters to existing content.   Sit in on another marketing functions meeting; read a book outside your specialty; subscribe to a blog from a sales guru; learn how to read an income statement, a balance sheet and their relationship with cash flows.  If our organizational leadership does not have the broad skills to facilitate integrated marketing, we can take the task upon ourselves merely by exploring other areas.

4. “People buy from people they like and trust.”

“Owned content allows you to develop that one-to-one, human interaction in a more effective way.”  This is why content marketing is so important – to every function – to SEO, to PR, to direct marketing. Content is a form of currency on the social web and is used in barter for time from stakeholders:  influencers with an interested in the topic, customers seeking to learn more about a product they use, prospective customers anywhere along the sales cycle, whether it’s the first touch, or checking back before making a purchase.

5.  Email marketing is still effective –and incredibly important to integrated marketing.

Remember email?  We still use it – every day – and most social networks require an email address to establish a social profile.  Email is for loyalty, it’s for the customers that already know us and have opted-in for great content.  It’s a relationship builder, it’s a traffic driver and it can have a forty-fold return on investment.  For every dollar spent on email marketing, marketing gets about $40 dollars in return.  Over my career, I’ve seen many companies think of an email newsletter as an afterthought.  It takes time and effort, often with little short-term return, to build a community (similar story with social media).  However, for those that do, five or ten years down the road that nominal interest builds in a compounding fashion, with a highly engaged and interested audience.  Relationship building is like banking – we’ve got to make a few deposits before earning trust.

6. “In marketing, no approach is certain.”

“What is certain is that we are all working with a dramatically changing media landscape that has moved faster with each new decade.”  This goes back to marketers striving to be well-rounded – to broaden their skillsets in preparation for the next change, or as I’d prefer to think about it, the next new opportunity.

* * *

If it’s true, “advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way off fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth,” then the nostalgia for the resurgence of integrated marketing is an effort to move forward and never look back.

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